Friday, June 13, 2008

A Quick Lesson in Guaraní and Guaranís

That title might not make any sense so let me explain it. Guaraní is the indigenous language spoken in Paraguay, while the Guaraní is the currency. Before Spanish rule, Paraguay was inhabited by a number of indigenous peoples each speaking different languages. The Guaraní cooperated with the Spanish conquistadors in order to survive. Ironically, this led to the virtual extinction of their race. The conquistadors fathered numerous children with the Guaraní leading to the mestizo race that calls themselves Paraguayans. Like their mixed blood, their language is also a mix called Jopara, a mix of Guaraní of Spanish. You might ask, if I know Spanish why do I have to learn Guaraní? While some people in Asunción do not speak a word of Guaraní, the majority of Paraguayans mix it into their everyday conversation. The farther into the campo you go, the more Guaraní the people speak. They say that Spanish is the language of the head, but Guaraní is the language of the heart. So in order to truly know Paraguay, I have to know Guaraní. Luckily for me, the language isn’t too difficult and I’ve been picking it up quickly. Some key phrases:

Mba’éichapa? (How are you?)

Iporã, nde? (I’m fine. And you?)

Iporã avei. (I’m fine also.)

Che heterei la tembi’u (¡Qué rico la comida!)

And of course, the “who I am” spiel:

Che cherera Pooja. Che aspirante Cuerpo de Pazpegua. Che Estado Unidogua. Che proyecto Desarrollo Económico Ruralpe. (My name is Pooja. I am a Peace Corps trainee. I am from the United States. My project is Rural Economic Development.)

Now for a lesson in the Guaraní, or rather, how much money I make. The 4,000 Gs is equivalent to the dollar (it’s a sign of how much the U.S. dollar has depreciated when I learned that only three years ago it was worth 7,000 Gs). That might sound like a lot but let me put it in perspective. A pack of cookies is roughly 2,500 Gs, a bus trip 2,200 Gs, a bottle of shampoo 20,000+ Gs. When I go to the main training center in Guarambaré, I have to take two buses to get there and two to return (plus walk 35 minutes each way). That’s 8,8000 Gs. I have to pay 5,000 Gs to use the Internet for an hour (with service that makes a snail look like Speedy Gonzalez). To put this further into perspective, I get paid a stipend of 15,000 Gs per day. That’s less than $4 a day. I have to use 1/3 of my salary to use the Internet for an hour. I have to use for than a day’s worth to buy a bottle of shampoo. How’s that for Living Poor?


John said...

Hi Pooja,

KP just told me about your blog. It sounds really cool what you're doing! We're just kinda making it month to month in LA trying to get into position to start a business. You make the simple life sound so good! I'm glad your host family is making vegetarianism easy for you, I remember how much trouble you had in China. That reminds me, I regret not going back to that Indian place on the way to Wudaokou we went to together that one time, since it was so good and cheap but back then it seemed so expensive. 35 yuan! Tai gui la. It's funny how your perspective changes so radically especially now that food is so expensive here. Some fruit is getting up to four dollars a pound and milk is over six dollars a carton.

Bob said...

Pooja this stuff is incredible. Of course you're keeping me on the mail list! That post "la oscuridad" was very very good. Keep 'em coming